5 Rules of Business According to Breaking Bad
*Warning: May Contain Spoilers
On Sunday, AMC launched a primetime takeover with the season 6 premier of “Breaking Bad.” And just like that only seven episodes remain before this critical darling is a wrap.
For those unfamiliar with the show, “Breaking Bad” tells the story of Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston), a hapless high school chemistry teacher turned ruthless meth king. Recently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, Walt begins cooking meth to pay for treatments and ensure his family is provided for after his death. With the help of a former student, Jesse Pinkman (played by Aaron Paul), Walt’s get-rich-quick scheme eventually blossoms into the “empire business.”
Over the course of the series, Walt’s management style becomes increasingly unhinged. But through thoughtful writing and compelling characters, “Breaking Bad” proves it’s more than just a show highlighting the financial rewards of illegal activities. As Walt seemingly travels on a road to nowhere, there are many lessons to be learned—even if our industry lacks the surprising twists of the Albuquerque meth business. What you choose to do with these 5 tips is up to you. Just remember to “tread lightly.”
1) Don’t Sacrifice Quality
“You and I will not make garbage. We will produce a chemically pure and stable product that performs as advertised. No adulterants. No baby formula. No chili powder.”
– Walter White
Operating under the alias “Heisenberg,” Walt’s success largely stems from his “blue meth.” Because his product is the best on the market, 99.1 percent pure, Walt is able to command respect and sell at a higher price than his competitors. Even when Jesse points out the convenience of distributing something that’s “good enough” (because, really, can customers tell the difference?), Walt is unwilling to compromise. Are you staying true to your company’s mission statement? Or, are you taking shortcuts?
2) Choose Your Partners Wisely
“A month ago, Gus was trying to kill both of us, and now he pulls you out of the lab and employs you as ... what? An assistant gunman? A tough guy? Does that make any sense to you? He says he sees something in you. What kind of game is he playing?”
– Walter White
Although Walt saw dollar signs from his partnerships with Tuco Salamanca and Gustavo Fring, respectively, he eventually learned a tough lesson: some people make for bad business. Chances are you won’t be signing the dotted line with deranged madmen, but it’s always important to work with like-minded individuals. For instance, is there a mutual respect? Are you both working toward the same goals? If not, move on.
3) Don’t Lose Sight of Your Goals
“Just because you shot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.”
– Mike Ehrmantraut
Power is Walt’s own “crystal blue persuasion.” As previously mentioned, he enters the meth business with his family in mind. But Walt’s quest for relevance muddies his original intent. Even before Walt turns the “growing Gus problem” to his favor, he just can’t help himself during an exchange with his Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) brother-in-law, Hank Schrader. Walt can’t stand the idea of someone else receiving credit for his work. So instead of letting Hank believe Gale Boetticher is the mastermind chemist behind the blue meth market, Walt draws attention to a chemical process recorded in Gale’s lab notes. Let’s leave it at the initials “W.W.” In business, certain situations require a fearless attitude; however, humility provides balance.
4) Build Your Reputation
“That’s right. Now say my name.”
– Walter White
Everyone wants a piece of the elusive Heisenberg—whether it’s to work with him or stay out of his way (unless they’re DEA agents). But, for now, many are clinging to a sketch of a man sporting dark shades and a porkpie hat. While Walt doesn’t always rely on conventional strategies to get ahead, he has succeeded in cultivating a reputation as master chemist and merciless drug kingpin. Still, he gets sloppy at times, and the things that “needed to be done” seem less urgent. Do you want to be known as an unreliable and unmotivated employee? It’ll definitely cost you that promotion or raise you’ve been eyeing up.
5) Be a Team Player
“We flipped a coin, okay? You and me. You and me! Coin flip is sacred! Your job is waiting for you in that basement, as per the coin!”
– Jesse Pinkman
Walt isn’t above doing the “dirty work” himself. In fact, he prefers it that way. It gets the job done—and done right. But sometimes help is needed, even if it means partnering up with an enemy. Walt soon realizes that taking down Gus Fring isn’t a one-man job, so he concocts an elaborate scheme with Héctor Salamanca involving a pipe bomb. In any industry, you will encounter situations that require you to brainstorm with difficult co-workers and superiors. Don’t forget the old saying, “Two heads are better than one.”